Trump says he didn't believe intelligence about Russia paying bounties on U.S. troops 'to be real'

President Trump on Friday disputed a finding by U.S. intelligence that Russia paid bounties to Taliban fighters in exchange for killing American troops stationed in Afghanistan.

“It was never brought to my attention, and perhaps it was never brought because I didn’t consider it to be real,” Trump said during a visit to Orlando, Fla., adding, “If it did take place, it would have been brought to my attention and I would take very strong action.”

Yet the finding by U.S. intelligence was included in one of the President’s Daily Briefs in late February, and Trump was asked Friday whether that meant he didn’t read them.

“It was never brought to my attention. I think it’s another Russia hoax. They’ve been giving me the Russia hoax, Shifty Schiff and all these characters from the day I got here and we’re working with Russia right now on a nonproliferation agreement.”

On Tuesday, Trump said that he had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin this week but did not bring up the finding that Russia had paid bounties on U.S. troops.

“That was a phone call to discuss other things, and frankly that’s an issue that many people said was fake news,” Trump said.

Donald Trump

Since the finding appeared in the Presidential Daily Brief, Trump has spoken to Putin on eight different occasions, Axios reported.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has seized on the story, and Trump’s responses to it, as a campaign issue.

“The idea that somehow he didn’t know or isn’t being briefed, it is a dereliction of duty. If that’s the case, and if he was briefed and nothing was done about this, that’s a dereliction of duty,” Biden told reporters earlier this month.

Biden spokesman Andrew Bates released a statement on Wednesday that continued the criticism of Trump. “The most critical and sacred obligation of a commander-in-chief is to protect those who serve our nation in harm’s way,” Bates said. “But months after the U.S. intelligence community sounded the alarm — to Donald Trump and to our allies — that Russia was placing bounties on the heads of American servicemen and women in a war zone, our president continues to turn his back on those who put their lives on the line for our country, and on his own duty.”

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President Donald Trump in 2020
US President Donald Trump boards Air Force One prior to departure from Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 25, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump pumps his fist as he walks on the South Lawn after arriving on Marine One at the White House, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Washington. Trump is returning from Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
TOPSHOT - US President Donald Trump walks to board Air Force One prior to departure from Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wisconsin, June 25, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn after arriving on Marine One at the White House, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Washington. Trump is returning from Wisconsin. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: President Donald J. Trump signs an executive order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities in the Rose Garden at the White House on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump gestures following a tour of Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wisconsin, June 25, 2020. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
MARINETTE, WISCONSIN - JUNE 25: US President Donald Trump speaks to workers during a visit to the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard on June 25, 2020 in Marinette, Wisconsin. The company was recently awarded a $5.5 billion contract to build ships for the U.S. Navy. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
TULSA, USA - JUNE 20: U.S. President Donald Trump meet his supporters at his ''Make America Great Again'' rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, United States on June 20, 2020. (Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
TULSA, OK - JUNE 20: President Donald J. Trump speaks during a "Make America Great Again!" rally at the BOK Center on Saturday, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, OK. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for an event in the Rose Garden on “Safe Policing for Safe Communities”, at the White House June 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump signed an executive order on police reform amid the growing calls after the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as members of law enforcement look on during an event in the Rose Garden on “Safe Policing for Safe Communities”, at the White House June 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump signed an executive order on police reform amid the growing calls after the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump signs an Executive Order on Safe Policing for Safe Communities, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, DC, June 16, 2020. (Photo by Saul LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 16: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during an event in the Rose Garden on “Safe Policing for Safe Communities”, at the White House June 16, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump will sign an executive order on police reform amid the growing calls after the death of George Floyd. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 15: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable on “Fighting for America’s Seniors” at the Cabinet Room of the White House June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump participated in the roundtable to discuss the administration’s efforts to “safeguard America’s senior citizens” from COVID-19. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 15: U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable on “Fighting for America’s Seniors” at the Cabinet Room of the White House June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump participated in the roundtable to discuss the administration’s efforts to “safeguard America’s senior citizens” from COVID-19. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 15: U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable on “Fighting for America’s Seniors” at the Cabinet Room of the White House June 15, 2020 in Washington, DC. President Trump participated in the roundtable to discuss the administration’s efforts to “safeguard America’s senior citizens” from COVID-19. (Photo by Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable meeting on seniors in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 15, 2020. - President Donald Trump holds a roundtable discussion with senior citizens called Fighting for Americas Seniors on Monday. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable meeting on seniors in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 15, 2020. - President Donald Trump holds a roundtable discussion with senior citizens called Fighting for Americas Seniors on Monday. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable meeting on seniors in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, June 15, 2020. - President Donald Trump holds a roundtable discussion with senior citizens called Fighting for Americas Seniors on Monday. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP) (Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images)
President Donald Trump speaks during an event on police reform, in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, June 16, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump speaks during a roundtable about America's seniors, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump listens during a roundtable about America's seniors, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Sunday, June 14, 2020, after stepping off Marine One as he returns from his golf club in New Jersey. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
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